It took me a long time to notice that something was wrong in our relationship. At first glance it appeared that we were just having fun and relishing in one another's company. We were young, life was good and we had little to no real responsibility. The times we lived in were liberal and while our parents may not have understood us, we enjoyed ourselves and it was more or less socially acceptable. Certainly surrounding the college in which I was urged to enroll.

I was never especially beautiful or smart, but with them I felt like I mattered. Like I was something beyond a waitress. Between the two of them they had everything I had ever grown up expecting in a man. Hanz was brilliant and emotionally satisfying. Gerald was gorgeous and rugged with the heart of a gentleman. Maybe that was how I lost myself in the beginning of things. I adored the attention, even though I was raised to think that much love was alien and wrong.

Months dissolved and I quickly found myself in a life that I would have never imagined possible. I discarded my world of table linens, cocktails and smiles and replaced it with one of study, headaches and the cool dark that came with the library that I learned to become enamored with.

I was well into my third semester of a four year degree in Art History, pouring over stacks of books that Hanz had plucked from the shelves like they were ripe berries when it all started.

"I was thinking of enrolling again," Hanz said while he studied my previous night's homework for errors. I appreciated the help, but it often felt like my stellar grades were more his than mine.

I looked up from my assigned reading. His eyes moved far faster than I'd have thought possible over my essay, but he abandoned his critique when I turned my attention to him.

"That's wonderful. Virology again?" I asked. I had wondered why he abandoned it in the first place. But it happened before our relationship took root and it seemed to disturb him whenever I asked. I had always assumed the pressure had cracked him somehow.

"Probably. I can probably resume where I left off. The dean said I could keep my credits because my grades weren't that bad toward the end. I'd just have to test out of whatever I left unfinished."

He seemed listless as he produced a red pen and cut a swath of destruction through the my homework. I knew it probably took a couple of days to build up the courage to tell me. I didn't want to scare him away, even if I was irritated with his editing.

"You want to talk about it?"

I offered, closing my assignment. It was late and the library was empty. We didn't need to whisper.

"I don't know, Wendy."

He discarded his pen with a sigh and leaned back in his chair.

"We don't have to.." I offered, trailing off.

He mumbled something about it being complicated. About how he didn't want to neglect what was important. But it seemed like a smokescreen to me. As if he was saying those things for my benefit and my benefit alone.

He was thinking. Something was ticking behind his eyes. I'd later learn that would be quite literal, but then I was unaware of the terrible thing that lived behind the man that I was learning to love.

Hanz needed more courage and support. So later that night as we shared evening meal with Gerald in his tiny dormitory I brought it up. They exchanged glances and for a moment I thought there would be a confrontation. But Gerald's face erupted in smiles and laughter, congratulating our lover. It seemed genuine, but there was a tense hostility between them the rest of the night. Even as the three of us spooned and enjoyed one another after the night was over there was an unsaid gulf between them.

The next morning when I awoke they were gone. I thought about the previous night as I showered and dressed. About how peculiar the whole issue was. Why did Hanz abandon his studies? Why would Gerald fake excitement at an announcement about his return? He was studying Virology himself, it seemed a good fit.

When I returned to the living area from the bathroom they were at our tiny table. Their book bags were stuffed with enough dusty tomes to keep someone busy for what seemed like a hundred years. I smiled and welcomed them home, hoping the previous night had faded from memory.

They offered their own and showered me with compliments regarding the night before. But their faces seemed plastic and their words for the first time since our relationship began seemed insincere.

Gerald patted his lap.

"Come here," he started. "We have something to show you, sweetheart."

I sat in his lap and he embraced me. He was hot and sweaty. It wasn't quite summer yet and the air outside was still chilly.

"Hanz, let's have it." Gerald practically snapped.

He wore a worried expression, but he did hand it over. An ancient book, it's leather cover cracking. Gerald set it before the three of us on the table and slowly cracked the cover.

"What is this about?" I asked.

"This," Gerald said "is something beautiful. Read." He kissed my cheek.

I read the first several pages in his lap. He seemed tense and very nervous. Before long I abandoned him and took my own chair. I lost myself in that strange and alien book. The feel of the crumbling pages between my fingers, the flow of the author's logic, the notes left by a previous reader. A red ink that oozed elegance in its neat longhand.

I could hear Hanz and Gerald arguing with hushed tones in the room. But their voices were tiny and insignificant. My day dissolved into night.


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